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As the world of business continues to evolve, entrepreneurs and small business owners are constantly on the search for the most efficient and reliable tools to manage their finances. In this ever-changing landscape, two software solutions have emerged as front-runners – Wave and QuickBooks. Both of these platforms offer a range of features and benefits, tailored to meet the unique needs of businesses. As we dive into the year 2023, the debate over which software is best for small businesses is fiercer than ever. In this article, we will explore the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, allowing you to make an informed decision for your business. Are you ready to embark on this comparison journey between Wave and QuickBooks, discovering which one will reign victorious in the year 2023? Let’s delve into the details and find out.
When I was 10 years old, I had a small business that involved going door to door with an empty ice cream pail and a can-do attitude to sell my dog doo-doo disposal services. The trouble was that after too many IOUs and conveniently “lost” checkbooks, my business was looking more like a charity.
The point: your business is never too small for accounting software.
I dug into two popular accounting tools, Wave and QuickBooks Online, to help you narrow down which tool is best for your business. Keep reading for my breakdown of Wave vs. QuickBooks.
Wave vs. QuickBooks Online at a glance
While both Wave and QuickBooks are apt at providing accounting features, each has its own strengths that make it better for certain businesses than others.
Wave is best for freelancers or businesses needing a simple, low-cost invoicing and accounting solution.
QuickBooks Online is a better fit for medium to large businesses with more complex accounting needs and a higher budget.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Basic plan is free with paid add-ons
Mobile receipts: $8
Fee for processed payments
⭐⭐⭐ More expensive due to additional features
Simple start: $30/month
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Clean and easy-to-navigate interface
⭐⭐⭐ Hard-to-find features; interface can be overwhelming to navigate
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Customizable templates, preview option, custom fields, easy to use
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Harder to use but offers more features like additional preview modes and sales tax calculation by location
⭐⭐⭐ Limited reporting options
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Lots of reporting options and ability to create custom reports with Advanced plan
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Real and manual time tracking, scheduling, time off, and approvals
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Categorize products and services; inventory tracker automatically updates after receiving bills or sending invoices
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Track miles, vehicles, and potential deductions
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Integrates with Zapier; can categorize transactions and eliminate duplicate transactions, but no other automations
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Integrates with Zapier; enables automation through its workflow feature (with Advanced plan)
Live chat support
⭐⭐ Only offers live chat support during limited hours
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Live chat availability for lower tiers and 24/7 availability for Advanced plans
Wave is free; QuickBooks is decidedly not
If you’re on a tight budget, it’s a pretty easy choice between the two platforms: Wave is a free invoicing and accounting software (with additional paid services like payments, payroll, and advisors).
QuickBooks, on the other hand, is going to cost you, even for the most basic plan. It adds up even more if you opt for additional services like Payroll or Workforce, where employees can view their pay stubs and W-2 forms. While QuickBooks will almost certainly meet all of your small business’s accounting needs, it may not work for your wallet, as the platform is aimed at larger businesses with tiered price points and features to scale as you grow. That said, if you sign up during a sale, you can get a good deal for a few months.
Both Wave and QuickBooks offer comparable invoicing functionality
Both platforms offer easy and intuitive invoicing functionality. When you create your first invoice in Wave, you’re guided to create a template first. The platform has a few template options to choose from, and even has the option to add branding like your logo and an accent color, which I thought was a nice touch.
It’s super easy to create an invoice with Wave, and you can use that template to speed up the process in the future. There’s also a preview feature, so you can see how the invoice will look to your customers.
You can also add discounts with a toggle for dollars or percentage, which would have made easy math for my “spring thaw” special back in the day (especially since I hadn’t learned how to calculate percentages yet).
QuickBooks also has options to customize your template, but you only get one option for a template design. Not a big deal, but I expected the paid platform to have more options than the free one.
Once you have it set just the way you like it, you can send yourself a sample email to see what it would look like as a customer receiving the invoice—a feature I didn’t see built into Wave.
There are more customization options when you’re actually creating the invoice, like custom fields, design, payment options, and automation, which seemed a little backward to me. I’d personally like to be able to set all that in the template from the get-go.
It took me a second to find where you input discounts, but it was pretty straightforward once I located it. There are also multiple ways to preview your invoice with an email, PDF, and payor view.
All in all, the invoice capabilities of both platforms are pretty similar, but I found Wave to be just a little easier to navigate. So if all you’re looking to do is send invoices, save some money and go with Wave.
QuickBooks boasts significantly more features than Wave
The extra cash you shell out for QuickBooks translates into a whole gamut of extra features. So not only do you get your money’s worth, but these features also help support the complex needs of larger businesses.
There’s a manual timesheet included with QuickBooks Online. The more advanced time tracking app, QuickBooks Time, is only available if you pay for QuickBooks Payroll, which comes at an additional cost. Employees can clock in and out for real-time tracking or retroactively add their time. There are also fields for billable hours to add specific customers and services.
You also have features for scheduling work and time off, projects, approvals, and reports—all necessary features for a medium to large workforce. With Wave, you’d have to integrate a third-party app in order to track time.
Mileage tracking is another feature built into QuickBooks that Wave doesn’t have, unless you use a creative workaround. With this QuickBooks feature, your employees can enter their trip information. Trips then go into a bucket for your review, where you can confirm each trip as Business or Personal. There’s also a convenient Round Trip toggle, so you don’t have to manually enter two separate trips.
Complete with a dashboard displaying total miles, total business miles, potential deductions, vehicles, and mileage allowance, everything you need for employee compensation, tax deductions, and tracking mileage on business vehicles is there at a glance.
You can create custom reports with QuickBooks Online Advanced. I could only get access to a free trial of QuickBooks Online Plus, so I couldn’t test out this feature, but even Plus still offers tonsof report templates with categories for Business Overview, Who Owes You, Sales and Customers, What You Owe, Expenses and Vendors, Sales Tax, Employees, For My Accountant, and Payroll.
Wave offers its own set of report templates, but the list isn’t nearly as extensive. You can still track financial statements, taxes, payroll, customers, and vendors, but the amount of report templates is much more limited. And just like QuickBooks, payroll insights are only available with a paid add-on.
I only had to keep track of my ice cream bucket with my business, but if you sell a product, you’ll probably have a bit more to organize. Inventory management is available in QuickBooks Plus and up. To access the feature, you have to turn on a setting under Sales to allow inventory tracking, which I learned through a demo video. After that, you can input all your products or services and have the option to add pictures, stock quantity, vendor information, and more.
You also have the ability to create categories with four levels of subcategories. Once you’ve set up your inventory, you can create purchase orders to send to vendors. The inventory tracker will update when vendors bill you for products and after you invoice customers. Again, with Wave, you have to use a workaround to track inventory.
Live chat support
QuickBooks may be occasionally confusing, but it does have a live chat support feature to help you out of a pickle. You can get answers from a bot, guided to tutorials, or actually chat with a real live human.
Wave has a help chat, but it’s just a bot. The only time you can talk to a human is Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Eastern U.S. time by chat or email. Not ideal if you can’t figure out how to process incoming payments over the weekend.
While simpler, Wave is more user-friendly
Ten-year-old me could have figured out how to use Wave. QuickBooks? Not so much.
One example is setting sales tax on your invoices. With QuickBooks, you can enter your location, and QuickBooks will figure out the requirements for your area. But when I went to configure it, the app booted me out of my invoice draft and I lost all my work.
And then when it did load my location’s sales tax requirements, it didn’t automatically apply that to my invoice or even let me override whatever was going on to manually apply the rate. It would be a useful feature if it worked consistently.
While Wave didn’t have the option to find my area’s sales tax requirements, it was way easier to just type the tax rate I wanted and apply it to the invoice. As it should be.
While both platforms have digestible dashboards, I found it a lot harder to locate features on QuickBooks than on Wave. Oftentimes features were tucked into a folder within a folder. I had to rely heavily on QuickBooks’ search function to find many of its features, and there were even times I had to Google where to find the feature. Now, a good chunk of that is probably user error, but I shouldn’t have to go digging to find my invoices.
Granted, QuickBooks will be more complex than Wave merely due to the number of additional features it supports. But if you don’t have complex needs, why overcomplicate it?
Wave vs. QuickBooks: Which should you choose?
There’s not a clear winner here. It really comes down to choosing an option that meets your needs at a price point you’re comfortable with.
If you’re a (really) small business or a freelancer needing bookkeeping, Wave will likely have everything you need for free. And as long as you don’t have any plans of rapidly expanding, you can’t beat that.
But if you’re a medium to large business or even a small business that’s growing quickly, QuickBooks will have the features you need to scale. Yeah, you’ll pay quite a bit more, but it’ll likely be worth it to help you scale efficiently.
One other element that might sway your decision is tax software. QuickBooks is owned by Intuit, so it connects to TurboTax. So if you’re a loyal TurboTax user, it might be worth it to go with QuickBooks just for an easier go at it when tax season rolls around. On the flip side, Wave connects to H&R Block, so the same logic applies if you already use H&R Block.
Automate your accounting software
No matter which platform you choose, Wave and QuickBooks both integrate with Zapier, so you can create automations to spend less time on bookkeeping (yawn) and more time growing your business. Here are some pre-built workflows to get you started.
Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.
Wave vs. QuickBooks FAQ
Still stuck between the two accounting tools? Here are answers to the most common Wave vs. QuickBooks questions.
Does Wave connect to QuickBooks?
Wave doesn’t natively integrate with QuickBooks. However, you can use Zapier to connect Wave to QuickBooks. You can automate workflows between the two platforms to create and send a QuickBooks invoice for every new Wave invoice and more—no code required.
Can you migrate from Wave to QuickBooks?
Yes, you can migrate from Wave to QuickBooks. You can export most of your Wave data by downloading it as a CSV or Excel sheet and then uploading it to QuickBooks with the Import Data functionality.
What percentage does Wave invoicing take?
Wave charges a fee of 2.9% + $0.60 for credit card transactions (3.4% + $0.60 for AMEX transactions) and 1% for each bank transaction + a $1 minimum fee for every invoice payment it processes.
On the other hand, QuickBooks charges fees based on how you process a transaction. It charges 1% with a max of $10 for ACH bank transfers, 2.4% + $0.25 for swiping a credit card, 2.9% + $0.25 for online invoices, and 3.4% + $0.25 for keying in a credit card.
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In conclusion, when comparing Wave and QuickBooks in 2023, it is important to understand the specific needs and requirements of your business. Both software programs have their own strengths and weaknesses, catering to different types of businesses.
Wave offers a user-friendly interface and is particularly beneficial for small businesses and freelancers who have to manage their finances on a tight budget. It provides essential accounting tools like invoicing, expense tracking, and financial reporting, all for free. Additionally, Wave has added features such as payroll and payment processing, making it a comprehensive solution for many small business owners.
On the other hand, QuickBooks is a powerful and robust accounting software that has been a popular choice for many years. It offers a wide range of features, including advanced reporting, inventory management, and integration with other business software. QuickBooks is suitable for small to medium-sized businesses and can handle more complex financial needs.
Ultimately, the best choice between Wave and QuickBooks depends on the size and complexity of your business, as well as your budget. It is recommended to thoroughly evaluate both software programs and consider factors such as cost, functionality, and ease of use before making a decision. Taking a trial or seeking recommendations from other businesses in similar industries can also assist in making an informed choice that aligns with your business requirements in 2023.
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